Mike Huckabee, one of the leading contenders for the Republican party nomination for President of the United States, has said he wants to change the country’s Constitution to ban abortion and compared gay relationships to “a man and an animal.”

In an interview with an online religious magazine Huckabee, a former Baptist preacher, said that he wants to ban abortion and “affirm” marriage.

“I don’t think that’s a radical view, to say we’re going to affirm marriage,” he said.

“I think the radical view is to say that we’re going to change the definition of marriage so that it can mean two men, two women, a man and three women, a man and a child, a man and animal.”

Huckabee, the former Governor of Arkansas, is neck and neck with Senator John McCain in Saturday’s key primary race in South Carolina.

Mason-Dixon Polling Research puts Huckabee on 25% and McCain on 27%.

However, in national polls Huckabee trails both McCain and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

In his Beliefnet interview he said he would ban abortion outright and alter the US Constitution to reflect his view that life begins at conception.

“The Bible was not written to be amended. The Constitution was,” he said.

He rejected letting states decide for themselves on the issue.

“That’s the logic of the Civil War, that slavery could be okay in Georgia but not okay in Massachusetts.

“Obviously we’d today say, ‘Well, that’s nonsense. Slavery is wrong, period. It can’t be right somewhere and wrong somewhere else.’ Same with abortion.”

Since winning the Iowa primary earlier this month, the evangelical Christian has become a serious contender for the White House.

He has refused to distance himself from comments he made as a candidate for the US Senate in 1992 about people infected with HIV.

Huckabee answered questions submitted to him by The Associated Press, one of which read:

“It is difficult to understand the public policy towards AIDS.

“It is the first time in the history of civilisation in which the carriers of a genuine plague have not been isolated from the general population, and in which this deadly disease for which there is no cure is being treated as a civil rights issue instead of the true health crisis it represents.”

Huckabee is also on record as saying that gay people choose their behaviour.

“People who are gay say that they’re born that way,” he said in a TV interview in December.

“But one thing I know, that the behaviour one practices is a choice.

“We may have certain tendencies, but how we behave and how we carry out our behaviour.”

Earlier this month an American organisation that works to expose the tactics of “ex-gay” groups has raised concerns Huckabee has links with known extremist groups.

TruthWinsOut questioned his links with the Christian Reconstructionist movement, which believes the Bible justifies stoning adulterers and homosexuals.

TWO’s executive director Wayne Besen said:

“Huckabee should explain why he is freely associating with known extremists and how this squares with his professed sunny and optimistic vision for America.

“Furthermore, his comparison of homosexuality to pedophilia and necrophilia is as ignorant as it is offensive.

“Mike Huckabee is beginning to show his true colours, and they are quite dark and intolerant.”

In Huckabee’s 1998 book, Kids Who Kill, he wrote:

“It is now difficult to keep track of the vast array of publicly endorsed and institutionally supported aberrations, from homosexuality and pedophilia to sadomasochism and necrophilia.”

Kids Who Kill was co-written by George Grant, a known Reconstructionist, who has also written fanatical books such as, The Changing of the Guard: Biblical Principles for Political Action.

The Cato Institute also reported that Huckabee held a fundraiser at the Houston home of Dr Steven Hotze, another leader of the radical and dangerous Reconstructionist movement.